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BT Cotton Wins Fans in West Africa

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Burkina Faso in West Africa has had a tremendous success with Bt cotton. Yields and farmers’ incomes have risen, chemical use is down, and cotton and cottonseed oil have become major exports. Burkina’s neighbors are beginning to take note.

In December, delegations from neighboring Benin and Togo visited Burkina at the invitation of the biosecurity experts network of NEPAD, the New Partnership for African Development. Participants included farmers, government officials, members of parliament, and textile industry representatives. Their mission: see first hand the impact of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso as a first step towards the eventual adoption of policies allowing its cultivation within their own borders.

Benin, which had had a moratorium on the planting of GM crops for 10 years, recently lifted it.

According to Doulaye Traore, Monsanto Corporate Affairs Manager for West Africa, Benin has the highest potential for cotton production in the region and its decision to not renew its moratorium is a good sign. It’s ironic that Benin is where the farmers of Burkina Faso learned to grow cotton, he said, and that Benin is now learning the advantages of growing Bt cotton from Burkina Faso.

The program included a one-day seminar on the basics of biotechnology and its regulation in Africa as well as farm visits.

The first farm visit was Dec. 12 at the farm of Philippe Tamini in the Boucle Mouhoun region. The fields were white with healthy cotton plants. According to a local newspaper report, Mr. Tamini has been growing cotton since 1985 and has 28 hectares of Bt cotton planted this year, in addition to corn and sorghum. In addition to higher yields, “two phytosanitary treatments are enough, whereas conventional cotton needed 7-8” applications of crop chemicals to protect the plants, he was quoted as telling the newspaper, Le Faso.

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